Early in the morning on July 24, Army Spc. Matt Oldham, 22, was at the right place at the right time.
At about 12:40 a.m., Oldham was working as a security guard for the Dallas Holocaust Museum when he heard a roaring crash outside.
“I heard the tires screech,” Oldham said in an Army release. “It was a very large crash.”
As he looked through the windows of the museum, he saw a crumpled-up black SUV engulfed in flames. The SUV had smashed into the brick building across the street and after assessing the situation Oldham rushed toward the crash site.
“My whole family has served all the way back through World War I,” Oldham said in the Army post. “So it’s always kind of been in my nature to serve and to … run toward fire — literally. It was kind of like muscle memory or instinct; whatever you want to call it. I knew I had the training, the equipment to help. I couldn’t not act.”
As Oldham approached the scene, he saw two Dallas police officers fighting to free the driver from the beat-up burning vehicle. The driver had not been wearing his seat belt and was caught between the brick building and his crumbled vehicle.
As he helped the officers free the man, Oldham said he did not take into account how bad the fire and the destroyed vehicle were and he remained focused on the task in front of him.
“You try to kind of block it out because it is traumatic,” he said in the Army’s post. “Especially if you’ve really never seen things like that."
Oldham said that although the man remained conscious he was unable to communicate. During the crash the man had sustained broken bones in both arms, a compound fracture and his foot was partially severed. Although his airway remained intact, the man’s chest was partially crushed.
Dallas police told CBS 11/21 DFW that the injured man, who had been suspected of driving under the influence, was taken to Methodist Central Hospital and would be booked into jail after receiving medical treatment.
Oldham said in the Army’s post that the crash gave him his first chance to use the combat lifesaving skills that he learned during combat buddy care and lifesaver training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
As a member of the Texas National Guard, Oldham has luckily never had to experience an incident like the one on July 24 while on deployment. From 2017-2018 he and his unit, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment, were deployed to the Horn of Africa.
“I’ve seen plenty of pictures in training … it’s different when you see it in person. And being an infantryman, it’s very similar to a combat injury,” Oldham said.